Nerine sarniensis

Nerine sarniensis – Guernsey Lily

Up to 15 brilliant scarlet flowers with recurved petals and wavy margins in each inflorescence.


Bulbous member of the Amaryllis family (Amaryllidaceae) with a flower stem that rises about 30cm above strap-like leaves. It flowers in autumn, with the flower arising before the leaves. Flower colour ranges from crimson to scarlet and from pale pink to deep rose-pink, and there is also a most attractive pure white form. However this scarlet form is by far the most commonly found in the Coastal Tasman area. It  is known among florists as one of the longest lasting cut flowers.


Nerine sarniensis comes from the rocky mountain slopes of the Western Cape in South Africa. Though the flowers are lily-like on form, despite the English name these plants are neither lilies nor from Guernsey. It is said that a ship carrying boxes of the bulbs of this species destined for the Netherlands was shipwrecked on Guernsey; with the bulbs washing up on the island, becoming established and multiplying around the coast. Whatever the truth of this, Sarna is the traditional latin name for Guernsey, with Sarniensis translating as “from Guernsey”; and N. sarniensis is the national flower of Guernsey.

Soil / Aspect:

Nerines require reasonable drainage and are often found in rocky and even arid areas in the wild. However, such wild populations also receive summer rainfall. So in Karin’s Garden this is a bulb that will appreciate watering during summer dry spells. They can tolerate some shade, but to flower at their best they really prefer full sun, like their Amaryllis cousins.


This plant suffers from no discernible pests or diseases. Once established this is really a very rewarding plant. Just do not let it become swamped by neighbouring herbaceous perennials. It will produce bulb offsets in a few years; though plants take a long time to become congested, at which point they will have to be lifted and teased apart before replanting about a fists-width apart.